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The Harrison Center is a Force for Cultural Development

Writer / Alesha McCarty
Photography Provided

The Harrison CenterThe Harrison Center, previously known as the Harrison Art Center, rebranded a couple years ago.

“We’re not just for the arts – we’re for the city as well,” says Executive Director Joanna Taft.

The Center strives to help local artists stay and thrive in Indianapolis. They spent the last year investing in programs and renovating their space on Delaware Street.

One of their innovative programs is Art Dish, a monthly dinner series that combines the talents of artists and local chefs to create an interactive, immersive cultural experience like no other. The dinners revolve around each artist’s exhibit theme, paired with a fine dining experience.

The event accommodates an intimate group that will get the opportunity to indulge in creative multi-course dinner created by a local celebrity chef.

“This will allow people to connect to art in a way completely different than attending a gallery opening,” Taft says.

While dining on some of the best cuisine in the city, patrons will get the chance to have in-depth discussions with the artist. You can book a private dinner, family celebration or corporate dinner, outside of the prescheduled Art Dish dinners.

Kipp Normand, July’s feature, will collaborate with Scarlet Lane Brewing’s head chef on a circus-themed dinner. You can view upcoming dinner details and register on the Harrison Center’s official website.

“Instead of canceling, we pivoted to continue serving the community,” Taft says regarding the challenges resulting from COVID-19. “We created social-distanced versions of our programs and took time to invest in our building.”

The Harrison Center leaders have created an impressive online gallery featuring current exhibits. There is something for every budget. Currently, you can check out “Greatriarchs: Local Stars” by Benny Sanders. “Greatriarchs” features a collection of portraits of the long-term residents who help write the story of Indy’s Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood. You can schedule a private appointment to view any of the pieces in the online gallery, or check them out on the Center’s social media gallery walk-throughs.

“We want artists to stay and thrive in Indianapolis,” Taft says.

Normand, who exemplifies the adage, “One man’s trash is another’s man’s treasure,” builds miniature museums from found objects to tell stories about himself and the community. After getting a chance to step inside his world of creativity, you can discover how he creates such inspiring pieces.

First Fridays at the Harrison Center are back, and will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the first Friday of every month.

“Everyone is welcome,” Taft says.

Pre-register for your spot online, and upon arrival follow the arrows that take you on a one-way trip to the best community art show in the city.

The Harrison CenterThe Center provides many opportunities for the community. They host high school and college internship programs, an artist residency program and neighborhood initiatives. They also have an on-site recording studio where musicians have written more than 300 songs and created 146 videos about Indianapolis. Their online blog features resources and information for patrons.

The Center leaders have made substantial improvements to the building to attract more private bookings, and have created additional spaces for the community to enjoy. In the courtyard a human-sized hamster wheel, a creative piece of public art, can serve everybody from humans to dogs. Be sure to catch the family-friendly karaoke elevator on the way up to the renovated rooftop deck. The deck has beautiful views of the city, LED tetherball, and a fantastic observation point for the renovated smokestack equipped with a fog machine and LED lights to create colored “smoke”. The roof deck may be the newest hot spot in the city. You can book the space for private dining experiences, parties and even small weddings.

The Center kicked off the summer collaborating with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and dedicated their new porch at May’s First Friday event to promote “porching.”

“We want people to sit on their porches,” Taft says. “When you are connected, you are healthy, and porching helps connect you.”

The Harrison Center is located at 1505 N. Delaware Street in Indianapolis. For more information, give them a call at 317-396-3886 or visit them online at harrisoncenter.org.

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